With the contradictory stand of two authorities over a provision that prohibits any construction in all directions within 100m of a protected monument, the Delhi Metro's proposed new alignment running through a heritage corridor might prove to be a litmus test for the government.
While Vijay Singh, the competent authority for Delhi (as far protected heritage monuments go), said construction below the road surface is allowed, Pravin Shrivastava, the member secretary of the National Monument Authority (NMA) — which gives final clearance — maintained that the March 2010 amendment does not permit any construction within 100m in all directions.
Under phase 3, the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) has submitted a proposal for a nine-km long alignment joining Central Secretariat to Kashmere Gate via Janpath, Mandi House, ITO, Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, Delhi Gate and Red Fort.
This proposed line, although entirely underground, manoeuvres through the heritage corridor with a number of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) protected monuments, including the World Heritage Site of Red Fort, and other heritage structures in its vicinity.
DMRC spokesperson said: "The DMRC has taken utmost care in view of the recent amendments in the ASI act while planning the alignment of the Central Secretariat-Kashmere Gate corridor."
Singh said, "No construction within 100m of a monument is applicable for construction on the surface, and not underground. Metro's tunnel is so deep --- the DMRC claims their line would run 18m below the surface --- it would not have any impact on the structure above ground."
Shrivastava gave an exact opposite view, in sync with the amendment, on the issue whether the NMA will consider a proposal for a Metro line running below any protected monument. "The prohibition of 100m is in all directions and the amendment does not permit it (underground construction)," he asserted.
DMRC in the meanwhile in non-committal on the issue and said, "We have submitted draft proposals to the competent authority and are awaiting his response regarding the same."
Apart from this, other construction activity includes that for underground stations and respective exit gates. Singh said, "After going through the detailed drawings, I have asked them to make several alterations. For instance, at the Delhi Gate, I have already asked them (DMRC) to take the exits beyond 100m from the monument."
Singh said he would go for a public hearing of stakeholders when he gets the corrected drawings from the Delhi metro. He would then weigh the proposal in respect of the rules and if satisfied, would forward it to the NMA.